Did you know you can make your Azure Percept DK mobile by connecting it to the cloud over 5G? Here is why and how you can do this.
4G changed the world via new apps and scenarios for consumer phones, 5G is promising to do the same to Machine-to-Machine or IOT communications. Through higher performance but also higher reliability (SLA 99.9999), and higher density, 5G will be transformational for businesses and municipalities worldwide. It enables customers to deploy cloud to edge solutions anywhere, with radically lower deployment costs, minimize hardware on-prem, and establish secure connectivity with predictable QoS.
One of the main use cases for 5G is Video Analytics leveraging Edge AI. We have many partners working in Smart Cities, Oil and Gas, Retail and Manufacturing industries using object detection to improve efficiency or simply providing a safer environment for workers. Like for example Proximus Building the next smart city with Azure Percept. In this particular Smart City use case, city of Kortrijk in Belgium used Azure Percept to get simple pedestrian count, which turned out to be important in the middle of Covid pandemic. Beyond the pandemic, they will be using this technology to learn how people move in particular areas and if there are anomalies that require actions.
5G connectivity provides “wireless fiber” that allows you to expand and modify your set up without extensive costs. You can run your workloads where it makes most sense, at the site, in the nearby edge data center or all the way in the cloud. You can build your solution aiming for “zero” CAPEX, which means that you use AI cameras, new “generic sensors”, like Azure Percept DK to act as intelligent sensors that send only the needed data to the business logic that runs in the cloud. 5G allows you to act on anything with low latency and the bandwidth allows you to send the data on low confidence detections to the cloud to be used in more accurate AI models or simply for retraining the existing edge AI model.
Almost the total opposite is the “zero” OPEX approach, where you use Azure Percept to do complex object detection at the site and then send only a simple JSON text file to the cloud and minimize the cellular data costs compared to streaming the video non-stop over cellular connection. These patters although almost the opposite make sense in different use cases, but 5G enables them both.
You can connect Azure Percept DK to 5G or LTE in a few easy ways. Below I am exploring 3 common approaches, using a Wi-Fi hotspot, using an ethernet gateway or the latest addition using a simple USB modem.
1. 5G/LTE Wi-Fi hotspot device
Simplest way is to use one of the Wi-Fi Hotspot devices that provide a Wi-Fi network using 5G or LTE as a backhaul connection to the internet. So clear benefit is easy set up for cellular connectivity and the downside is the additional hotspot device and the fact that your connection is not optimized for latency or bandwidth as the signal has to go through several wireless protocol transformations (Wi-Fi to 5G/LTE and back). Also, Azure Percept DK is not aware of the 5G or LTE connection, so you have to manage the hotspot device separately in your PoC, including power to it.
2. 5G/LTE ethernet gateway device
Here Azure Percept DK is connected using an ethernet cable to a 5G/LTE gateway that provides the connection. Again, one benefit is that it is fairly simple to set-up, and another benefit is that if your gateway has enough bandwidth and ethernet ports, you can connect several Azure Percept devices to it. Downside is perhaps that 5G and faster LTE gateways can be expensive, also Azure Percept DK is not aware of the 5G or LTE connection, so you have to manage the gateway separately, including power to it. More info here Connecting over cellular gateway.
3. USB 5G/LTE Modem device
Here Azure Percept DK controls the 5G/LTE connection that the USB modem dongle sets up i.e. your IoT application running in Azure Percept can control the connection better. USB model also gets power from the Azure Percept DK USB port so no additional power cables needed. Another benefit is the cost, as this is the most cost-effective way of getting Azure Percept DK connected over 5G/LTE. The downside here is that, at least today, you have to flash a separate 5G/LTE enabled SW and you have to do a little setting up before you get your connection up and running. So, for this we have now released a special SW image for Azure Percept DK that includes Linux ModemManager SW that allows you to use several USB Modems from different vendors to connect your Azure Percept DK to Azure. There are step by step instructions for a few example modems. One example is the new 5G USB modem kit (RM500) from Quectel Wireless Solutions. More info here Connecting using USB modem.
Now take your Azure Percept DK, connect it over 5G and run your PoCs anywhere you want. With Azure Percept you can design your solution to send only simple text files and leverage the new very low-cost LTE-M cellular data plans, or you can use the full 5G bandwidth, perhaps on a private 5G network, where you can iterate the AI models to a perfection.